The longest, the most difficult and the most inspiring interview I have done so far. Yes, it is very long, yet totally worth reading from A to Z. Alex Macarte is known for GNOD, Manatees, Arabrot, AHRKH (and AHRKH with Mark Wagner) to name but a few. So many projects allows him to take music to a next level… a level where music is a channel, it alters and heals you… We talked about GNOD, their collaboration with Surgeon, upcoming Roadburn shows, The Islington Mill, touring… We discussed meditation, spirituality, religion and immigration politics…we touched upon personal matters such as Alex’s hearing damage, modular synth accident at Supernormal festival, love and marriage. Read this and see for yourself - Alex’s creative potential is enormous, serving a much-needed inspiration for many of us. I feel blessed I had a chance to explore music and profound questions of existence with him here at Mutual Grimness.
“I 100% believe in Music’s ability to heal, physically and mentally. And indeed spiritually… Our planet, our solar system, indeed our universe is full of vibration. Even our body is musical, our pulse, heartbeat, inhaling and exhaling is in Rhythm. And in that way, sound can Vibrate and resonate with us. That is why music is unlike any other art form and is able to reach into our soul in ways that other art cannot. Music can express what Paintings or Poetry are unable to, it’s formless and touches on the intangible like nothing else can. Music is nature.”
“There have been well over 50 albums at my reckoning and probably somewhere around 70 members have been in Gnod at some time or another.”
Alex, you are doing so many things music-wise. And you are playing so many instruments -bass, synth, gong, drums … I am unsure I even know every project you are into now. Could you tell a bit more about your occupations?
Alex: Hey. Ok, so currently I am involved in a few Projects. My main Project, which I take the most time with is GNOD. Gnod is a collective based in Salford UK, and for the past 10 years has been working on the principle of bringing people together, to create something from nothing. It’s an ever-evolving beast, and its output has been vast in its sounds, styles and members, playing anything from heavy dirty guitar based noises, motorik punk, abstract techno, ambient trance inducing drone and chamber music. There have been well over 50 albums at my reckoning and probably somewhere around 70 members have been in Gnod at some time or another. I joined in 2012, and have been one of 4 “core” members for the last 5 years, along with the founders Paddy Shine and Chris Haslam, completed by myself and Marlene Ribeiro, plus our “fifth” member sound engineer Andy “Raikes Parade” Blundell. Within the band my role has been a sort of multi-instrumentalist, changing and revolving around different instruments. I’ve played drums, synths, Rhodes Piano, vocals, guitars, bass…. whatever is required and whatever lends itself to the situation at hand. Currently I’m either playing synths or in the “big band” set up I am now doing electronics and atmospherics….
Next year (2017) marks the 10-year anniversary of the band. Quite an achievement. I was in bands touring and such before Gnod, but since joining back in 2012, it’s been the catalyst and kick off point of me doing so much more music and pushing myself creatively in ways I had only imagined before. This project is very very important to me, and the way we work is so unique, I feel very proud and privileged to be a part of it and such an intense level. It’s the most challenging, but also the most rewarding project I’ve been involved with, there’s never any want for creative channelling… It sounds corny but it’s not just a band, it’s a way of life….
Just like the rest of GNOD I have my own solo project, under the name AHRKH, which is based around mainly Modular Synthesiser and Voice. It’s like transcendental ambient drone noise type stuff. It’s my attempt at exploring sounds ability to temporarily (or even permanently) alter consciousness. An attempt to somehow touch the intangible within us all. A kind of meditation music. Very much influenced by the esoteric philosophies I read, sound healing, and minimalism. It started way back in my bedroom around 2009/2010 with the most basic of means, via my voice and guitar and cassette loops. I started doing live stuff with it, only very occasionally, around 2011 or so, and since then it has slowly evolved into where it is now. It’s probably the project closest to my heart, as it comes directly from me, so essentially it is me, in sound form. It’s the thing I do in-between all the other things, and the last few years has seen a rise in its activity, having released some stuff on great tape labels like ZamZam from France, Tesla Tapes (Gnod’s Paddy Shines Label) and Sacred Tapes, and much more live stuff in the UK and I even performed in America last year, which was totally awesome. Live is where it’s at for me with that, despite the rarity of me performing. I usually team up with a great visual artist here in the UK, KHOM and we work together to merge sound and image to create a real atmosphere. I did some gallery performances this year and they described my music as reflective, meaning the Audience shapes their own internal meanings to the sound, which I think is just great. Mirror music.
The other projects are AHRKH WAGNER which is basically the merging of my Solo project with that of sound and visual Artist Mark Wagner. Mark has been a friend for some time, and our music, sounds, interests, philosophies and outlook really share similarities, so made sense for us to work together. His work is based upon sound, frequency, alchemy, natural phenomena and dare I say it, Magick. Just the kind of things that inform my work. I would say my work is informed by it, while Mark’s work IS it, if you get me?
It began last year while I was in London for a radio session and was staying in his studio. We just set up and jammed and it worked instantly. Working with him is an absolute pleasure, a dream. It’s very inspiring and I seem to learn so much from him every time I do. He’s become a very dear friend.
AHRKR. WAGNER. photo: Ely Grey
And lastly…I currently play bass in the live version of Norwegian Noise Rock, Weirdo outfit Arabrot, which has been fun. They kind of play in circles that I thought I’d long left behind, but I find them really interesting and a twist on the usual “heavy” guitar bands. They usually leave audiences a little bemused, which I love. I toured with them in an older band many years ago and I was similarly left confused, and when a band does that to me, it usually means they’re doing something right. Back then they were playing this super heavy dirty weird stuff like Melvins playing Black Metal, dressed in tiny shorts, no shirts, cowboy boots and big shaman head dresses. It was really something! I find the “metal” scenes quite singular in their vision, and kind of male orientated and macho and stuff, which had always been a bit of a gripe to me, so to be in band playing to those crowds and really kind of giving something a bit different, a bit more challenging and confusing is really great. Kjetil Nernes, the band’s main guy, got in touch with me after Gnod shared a bill, we hadn’t seen each other in while and had a good catch up, and later asked if I’d like to be involved in the touring of their latest album, The Gospel. Which is great. An expansion on the Arabrot sound. You can hear Killing Joke, Bahaus, The Bad Seeds in equal measure to hearing Jesus Lizard, Melvins and all those heavy bands. He’s such a gent, a real charmer, so how could I refuse. I share the bass role with Alex Wilson, of the band Ghold. We’re like a tag team. Which can be a little confusing, as we’re both called Alex, look kind of similar, and actually sound the same. We’re pretty much the same person, rarely seen together in the same room… ha. Also it should be noted, they love my really terrible sense of humour. The dad jokes and terrible puns that drive my partner crazy, and get mostly groans from friends, seems to translate really well for the Scandinavians. They find me hilarious. Which I find hilarious.
“Islington Mill is probably the best place in the world, as far as I’m concerned… The Mill is a place that allows people to dream, and that is so important, because if you can dream it, you can conceive it. In a world full of mayhem, full of turmoil, full of oppression, we mustn’t allow that to corrode the culture of humanity.”
I saw a video of you in a studio in Islington Mill. Could you tell us more about this space?
Alex: I think I know the video you mean. That’s my studio space in Islington Mill where I live, work, create and spend most of my time. GNOD is based there along with a whole community of artists. Islington Mill is probably the best place in the world, as far as I’m concerned. It’s a 19th Century Mill that for the last 20 years has been used as a creative hub in Salford, Manchester. It houses over 50 artist studios, creative businesses, an independent Arts School, a legendary club and venue, a gallery and even a B&B. It’s a place for freedom to explore creative arts and is a support network for emerging artists or well established artists alike. It’s very unique, I’ve yet to see anything like it in the UK, or even in Europe for that matter. It’s my sanctuary in the world. Since being a resident there my creative output has flourished, giving me the freedom to explore my art and indeed myself and what makes me tick. There is no pressure, or criteria to meet as such and being surrounded by amazing artists, people and work is incredibly inspiring. Its Vision is to create a space to Live and work Freely. I think it’s quite someway to achieving that.
And I think now more than ever the world needs places like Islington Mill. A place to be able to express oneself. Which I’m so grateful for. It seems so trivial, but many in this world are unable to simply express themselves. And so in that respects, I never take it for granted. I feel it’s my duty to use my fortunate position as fully as I can. In a way, The Mill is a place that allows people to dream, and that is so important, because if you can dream it, you can conceive it. In a world full of mayhem, full of turmoil, full of oppression, we mustn’t allow that to corrode the culture of humanity. I feel the Mill, its environment, its open flux of likeminded spirits, has asked me what I can do to be a part of that, to help us as a society to remember amidst the chaos, and with all our own individual identities, we are all the same, and with a capacity as humans we have to destroy, we have just an infinite capacity to dream and shape not only our own destiny, but that of the world.
The future of the Mill is kind of at a cross roads right now. The 5th floor and roof have been in a dilapidated state for years, and battered by the elements flooding when there is rain. For the last few years they have been applying for arts funding and last year were accepted for a 1.6Million grant to fix the roof and renovate the floors into usable studio’s gallery and residency accommodation. Pretty cool! But it’s to be match funded by outside sources otherwise we don’t get the money and the future of the Mill will be uncertain. There’s a fundraising campaign going on right now, which you can learn more about here: http://www.islingtonmill.com/about-us/support-us-now/
“If you imagine your mind as a body of water, on the surface is where your thoughts are and where your consciousness is most of the time. It’s very busy with activity up there, thoughts swirling around… the thoughts are like bubbles that bubble up from the bottom, where it is very still and calm. The meditation helps you bring consciousness down to the bottom, the ocean surface, the still waters.”
The sound of AHRKH is very meditative. Is meditation something that you practice on a regular basis? Can music aid meditation and healing, you reckon?
Alex: Yes, I do practice meditation. Daily. For nearly 3 years now. My wife meditates and got me into it after reading an interview with me about why I play music, which was to shut off from the chaos and madness of the world, to momentarily rid myself of anxiety and stress, to go inward…. she was like, “mmm sounds like meditation, you ever tried it?”… and it just happened when I was in NYC to see her, a friend had just returned from India on Mediation Teacher Training. Perfect timing…!
And it really changed my life. Or helped me change my life should I say. It’s not like it gets rid of stress, or anxiety per say, because life is life, and you will always encounter those feelings. But it helped me realise that in reality, much of the time there are no stressful situations, only situations, or events. Actions and consequences. Effects of actions. And that in actual fact, it’s how you respond to those that really creates the stress or anxiety. So it kind of helps me look at things differently. With a wider scope. And that kind of goes for a lot, not just stress and anxiety, that’s only one little factor. It all depends on perspective much of the time, and the power of your mind to change that.
To strip it to its most basic form it’s like exercise for the mind. Your brain is a muscle, and there’s parts of it that are on overdrive due to the highly demanding lives the modern society lead. Those problem solving, fight or flight parts of your brain are getting used which our brains were only supposed to be using for part of the time, say in hunting or survival etc, so meditation helps you quiet the mind for a short time, and is uses parts of your brain that aren’t used so much anymore. There are many forms of meditation, which all really aim to get you to the same place. The kind of mediation I do is a Mantra based meditation, where you sit comfortably and quietly for around 20 mins, repeating a specific Mantra (Sound) in your mind. This helps your consciousness quiet down and basically reach the source of thoughts, to reach a place of no thought, no mantra, just being. Somewhere between awake and asleep. If you imagine your mind as a body of water, on the surface is where your thoughts are and where your consciousness is most of the time. It’s very busy with activity up there, thoughts swirling around… the thoughts are like bubbles that bubble up from the bottom, where it is very still and calm. The meditation helps you bring consciousness down to the bottom, the ocean surface, the still waters. It’s very effective and insanely easy.
I 100% believe in Music’s ability to heal, physically and mentally. And indeed spiritually. Essentially the world is Sound. At the subatomic level, everything is in constant movement, nothing is still. Atoms that make up the physical world are in constant movement and vibration. And what is sound at its most fundamental basic root? It is Vibration, it is the movement of air, of atoms, that once vibrating at the right frequency our mind is able to perceive via the ears. There are “sounds” or vibrations that we may not consciously perceive, with our ears, but we perceive them none the less, we feel them consciously or subconsciously. Our planet, our solar system, indeed our universe is full of vibration. Even our body is musical, our pulse, heartbeat, inhaling and exhaling is in Rhythm. And in that way, sound can Vibrate and resonate with us. That is why music is unlike any other art form and is able to reach into our soul in ways that other art cannot. Music can express what Paintings or Poetry are unable to, it’s formless and touches on the intangible like nothing else can. Music is nature. If we look back at ancient cultures, sound plays very heavily in their philosophies, and they seemed more connected to its power than we are now. “First there was the Word”.
“The female voice is our friend Lani Rocillo, who is a Sound Healer and Shaman. She’s out of this world, a wonderful spirit whose voice is just unreal, as you can hear. She recorded in one take intuitively singing to our drones... Voice is breath, and breath is life force, so really the Voice is the most powerful instrument of all.”
Another question about AHRKH. WAGNER “Music for Meditation” is full of voices, chants. Who are the voices behind? Have you used samples or recorded those voices live?
Alex: Music for Meditation is one of four pieces of music myself and Mark recorded this summer. I was travelling to Italy for a show and was flying from London, so contacted Mark to see if I could stay at his place. He suggested I come down earlier and spend a few days making some new music with him. Whenever I go and make music with Mark there is always some kind magic going on, it’s really strange and funny. Always have these kind of out of the ordinary experiences… it’s great! When I arrived in London, there was a Buddhist Full Moon Puja happening, so we went there, full of Chants and such. Then we visited Mark’s friend, a Sufi, named Khaled Hakim, and took part in a Zikr meditation, which is full of singing and movement, it was really quite special. My whole body was tingling after, it was a total natural high… so that kind of set the tone for the week really.
We talked about what we’d like to do, we didn’t want to do something the same as our last thing “2B” which Tesla Tapes released. We didn’t even want to make “music” as such. We’re both fans of those Youtube videos on Solfeggio Frequencies, Binaural Beats, Music to aid you in Sleep, meditation, love, fear, 432hz 528hz, you know those sort of hippy spiritual videos which are like 3 hours of a certain frequency. And we had talked about the power of Intention. Once you do something with Intention it can hold real power. So we decided we’d like to make music loaded with intention. And our intention was to make music to heal, to soothe, and meditate to. So to put it into an equation, our idea was FREQUENCY + INTENTION = HEALING... We recorded in such a way that our “machines” would mainly play the music so we could meditate ourselves, subtlety changing the sounds every now and then.
We were due to record in Mark’s space in Clapton but turned out there was a job happening there that day so it was unavailable. So instead Mark arranged for us to record in the Church that he Rings Bells in, St Johns in Hackney. But then THAT turned out to be booked with something, so then we ended up recording in the Bell Tower. It couldn’t get more perfect really!
Due to my travel restrictions, I couldn’t really bring much, so we made the music with the bare minimums, our voices and some field recordings and tone generator. So we basically set up with our machines and just recorded, us meditating intermittently. We did this right the way through the night and did the other Long piece, “Music for Mysticism” by candle light up there.
The vocals on those tracks were recorded later, and they were recorded live. The female voice is our friend Lani Rocillo, who is a Sound Healer and Shaman. She’s out of this world, a wonderful spirit whose voice is just unreal, as you can hear. She recorded in one take intuitively singing to our drones. Music for Mysticism is Kahled, Mark’s Sufi friend. He’s basically performing a Zikr on the track. You can really here the power that the human voice can have. Voice is breath, and breath is life force, so really the Voice is the most powerful instrument of all. I didn’t hear the finished pieces until later and was really taken aback at how the vocals gave them so much of a lift and deep power! And all of this really was just by kind of letting go and letting opportunities arise. No plan, just ideas. So thus, a new equation was discovered!
FREQUENCY + INTENTION + SURRENDER = MAGICK
We intended to just put these tracks online for streaming, so they are available to all. “Releasing” music can be quite a task these days, and we were really interested in other ways of getting music “out there”. It’s a kind of tongue in cheek nod to those “sound healing” videos I talked of that you find on Youtube. Tongue in cheek but also sincere. We put the two long meditation pieces online, and there are another two shorter pieces that make the whole thing. We’re looking at the possibility of making a physical version of it all in time.
“We sometimes do this thing in Gnod where one of us will record something, then pass it along to the next person for them to record a part on, and then that person passes it on, etc etc, so that’s how Behind the Lids was done.”
Collaboration between GNOD and Surgeon came as a surprise. Could you tell more about the recording of Behind The Lids?
Alex: Ha, yes it was surprise for us too. When we released Infinity Machines, Chris had noticed that Surgeon had been tweeting about it, that he was a fan. Which is super cool. We reached out to him, just to say how cool we thought it was that he loved the album, I’m a fan of his Jungle Recordings album, and of course know of his Techno fame, and he told me he was coming along to a Gnod show in Bristol. At that show he was chatting to Paddy and Chris, so it came from those conversations. We had a piece of Music that we’d been recording. We sometimes do this thing in Gnod where one of us will record something, then pass it along to the next person for them to record a part on, and then that person passes it on, etc etc, so that’s how Behind the Lids was done. It’s this weird long ambient track, and it was nearly finished, But Paddy and Chris invited Tony to record a pass too and have a little mix of it. It was actually much earlier this year that that happened.
He came up to visit the mill a couple months ago and brought his Buchla Music Easel with him and we jammed together for two nights. Gong+Buchla+Modular+Synths… The jams from those are actually really really great! We recorded some of it so who knows what will happen with those. Regardless, it was a lot of fun, he’s super chill and it was cool hanging out with him and finding he’s into a lot of the stuff we are. I spent a whole morning with him talking about Coil, which is always a good omen! He’s big in the Techno world, and he’s a champion at it, but he has deep love for the drone!
Hopefully we can do some more stuff together, it works, so there’s no reason why not other than time and logistics… It was a total Honour playing with him. Behind the Lids, is now out and is part of our fundraising for Islington Mills roof, all proceeds from that album will be going to the Mill. So yeah if you want a great album and to help the place, go visit the Gnod blog or Tesla Tapes Bandcamp and buy a copy!
“It was a great display of people coming together and making something happen, and a real lesson for me that people are good, generous and willing to help if you ask. People are awesome.”
I’ve heard about the accident you had at Supernormal festival. I am sorry about your modular synth and I hope it is already repaired. It must be amazing to get so much support from people who love you and your music! Have you expected such a response?
Alex: Ah yes, Supernormal! I love Supernormal festival… like everything about it. The music, the activities, the vibe, and most of all the people! I love that festival so much, as does anyone who’s gone there. Me and Mark decided to set up a guerrilla gig on the Sunday, we weren’t scheduled to play, but Lani was there for another performance and we’d not long recorded those meditation sounds… so we thought a great idea to perform one live… We set up on Sunday, with our own sneaky little PA, outside the campsite, to kind of soothe the campsite awake, a cure for the hangovers, a thanks for such a wonderful festival. It was really special, and a bunch of people joined us for a “meditation” whilst a lot of people I think just enjoyed it from there tents, slowly waking up! Just as we finished a big gust of wind blew Lani’s big Gong over and it smashed into my modular synthesiser. I was devastated, that thing cost a lot of money, and is my instrument. It’s all boutique stuff which I got in America, and anyone who knows about modular, knows it’s expensive… I worked a very long time to get invest in it, and there it was smashed and dented… my heart sank! I’ve been doing so much music this year, and had a schedule in place that is pretty demanding of time, and though I get paid, I really only make enough to sustain that schedule. I tried to see if I could make some money to go on repairs but when I realised I could not and my schedule with Gnod and Arabrot and things were getting closer I was really starting to panic, as though relatively speaking, the money needed wasn’t a massive amount, but the reality was it would take me a long time even to make that, and without the machine working fully, well, it’s like catch 22…
I’d had a number of people suggesting a crowd funding thing, and actually a really really kind soul, an awesome artist I kind of know, who was at the performance and saw what happened, reached out to me to offer a contribution to the cost of the repair. He was so kind in words, and was really inspired and buzzed off all the activity I do, so he was more than happy to help towards that carrying on. He was very inspiring to me. So after that, and others suggesting it, plus the realisation I wasn’t going to be able to get it fixed I reached out to my wide circle of friends and networks. And I was amazed at the response. Within two days I made the target and so many people contributed and gave me encouraging words. It was really quite moving and humbling. I mean, it felt so weird for me to ask, there’s so many other, more worthy causes then helping me fix my gear, and I nearly didn’t do it, so I was really surprised…it was a great display of people coming together and making something happen, and a real lesson for me that people are good, generous and willing to help if you ask. People are awesome. So any of you guys who donated that are reading this, XXX T H A N K Y O U XXX
“This country (UK) is becoming more and more of an isolated nationalistic country. It’s really scary. It doesn’t feel nice to have a government control on such a personal matters. To have a basic human right to a family life denied over money. Love is not political. It is not a crime. The UK Government seem to put a price on everything yet a value on nothing….”
Talking about personal life… I know you have hearing problems... you got married recently as well, congrats!!! How does your personal life affect your music?
Playing loud music for more than 10 years, is always going to have an effect on your hearing. I’ve had tinnitus for some time, but always totally manageable.
After a big spurt of touring this year, I was basically on tour for over three months, with no real breaks. So extremely loud music with Gnod and Arabrot every night for three months. And I wasn’t wearing ear protection…When I got back from tour, well, that was when I noticed something was up… the ringing became constant, usually it “dies down” but it wasn’t letting up and was really loud, especially when in quiet surroundings, like going to bed… it was pretty unbearable. After some tests and such, it was determined that it was permanent. I can hear loud ringing in my ears pretty much constantly. The results showed in the three years since my last hearing test, the damaged had more than doubled, and so the doctors where like, hey do the maths, if you don’t change something you will be deaf by the time you’re 50. As I’ve got older I really love sound more and more, not just music, but just the everyday sounds, so it’s a pretty scary thought of losing my hearing. I now use these great special plugs made that are special for musicians. They’re moulded to your ear and have a special filter in them to cut out only the damaging frequencies. They’re amazing. When you have them in you can hear everything clearly, quite amazing. I would definitely recommend them. With music, there tends to be a sort of macho nonsense with loudness, like you know, that somehow it’s lame to need protection or something. Fuck that. Once the hairs in your ears are damaged, there is no going back. I’d like to be able to hear well until my old age.
Thanks on your well wishes, I did get married yes. I never thought I would be someone to get married, I don’t exactly subscribe to the traditional life style..!
My Partner, Destiny, lives in New York. We met three years ago on an artist residency in Ibiza, and she lived with me for some time in Salford until her Tourist Visa ran out. Unfortunately as it stands, she can’t get a UK VISA due to the insane immigration rules the UK currently have. It’s pretty complicated and long winded, but not many people know about it, so I may swell use this as an opportunity to raise awareness of this particular issue… The current rules state that for non EU spouses of British nationals to live in the UK and have a family here, the UK partner has to earn £18,600 a year. Or have £64,000 worth of savings. If you have children, it’s an extra £2000 per child. Doesn’t take a genius to see how unfair this is.
UK national minimum wage equates to somewhere around £13,000 per year. Which makes the threshold for non EU marriages £4,000 below the threshold. In so many ways the government is basically saying if you are poor, then fuck you, you can’t have a family life with your loved one.
Looking at other options, for her to get a work Visa in the UK, they have to be employed in a job that pays over £35,000 a year. The Employer has to sponsor them, and prove first that there is no one from the UK who can do the job, then secondly that there is no one in the EU who can do that job…!! To study here as a Non EU resident, well it’s insanely expensive. The argument is to prevent the so called “benefit tourists” coming to the UK and draining our countries welfare resources… Which is totally nonsensical as prior to this monetary requirement, non EU residents were NEVER entitled to any national welfare.
And what’s crazier is, if you are from an EU member state, such as Germany, France etc, and you want to live in the UK with your Non EU Spouse, you can, with no monetary requirement, as you have freedom of movement. So I have less personal rights in my own country of birth. It’s a total lunacy.
Our government is really playing on people’s emotions passing the blame of the economic crash of 2008 on and on the next scapegoat, which is currently, and regrettably, immigration. This country (UK) is becoming more and more of an isolated nationalistic country. It’s really scary. It doesn’t feel nice to have a government control on such a personal matters. To have a basic human right to a family life denied over money. Love is not political. It is not a crime. The UK Government seem to put a price on everything yet a value on nothing….
But back to my actual wife and the good things! We’ve been doing Long distance for the last few years. Like I said, we are far from your traditional couple…!She is super super supportive of what I do over here, and with things very much rooted here for now, I’ve been remaining in the UK and we’ve been visiting each other criss crossing the ocean multiple times a year. Of course it sucks and we miss many things that most couples maybe take for granted, like the simple thing of seeing each other every day, holding hands in the street, waking up with each other. But it does also have good points. We don’t take each other for granted, and the time we spend with each other is always amazing, we both have lots to talk about. I talk to her in some form every day. The last time I was in America, we decided there and then to get married, we went to City Hall in New York and invited a small amount of friends, and just did it. It was so much fun, and cut out all the things that drive me crazy about weddings… It doesn’t fix our situation, but it widens our options. The long distance can’t sustain itself forever, so it’s a move forward… I know I want to share my experience of this life with her, so in that respects it’s a move in the right direction.
I love her immensely and she’s the deepest and smartest person I know. She’s fucking magic. So right now we’re looking at options of how we can move forward to being physically with each other more often. In terms of music it doesn’t really influence my work directly, but I’m sure it does on other indirect levels.
Having said that, the Gnod album the Mirror, was quite a political record. We were on tour during the last UK general election, and of course I was hoping for a different result, in the hopes there may be some movement on these regulations. We were in Italy when the news came in, and I was so upset, and the rest of band could see that, the songs weren’t directly about MY situation, but was about the systems and governments we have in place, that lead to situations like mine and many others, situations that disadvantage the many and benefit the few, and so for me it became a much more personal thing. Fuck this government, fuck austerity, fuck borders.
“…whilst on tour with Arabrot earlier in the year I drove the Alps like 4 times in two weeks, and just spent the entire time staring out the window. I proclaimed to everyone in the van “God the Earth is so beautiful, I just want to fuck it! I want to make love to the Earth!” Kjetil, as quick as lightning said, “You better wear protection, I hear she’s filthy!”
What else is influencing your music most? Artists? Religions? Mysticism?
Alex: All the above. Everything is an influence really. I read a lot of books on eastern, esoteric, and ancient philosophies that influence me quite a lot. Religion too I guess. I’m not religious, so to speak in the traditional sense, but I’m certainly no atheist. From doing my own studies, I find all these religions are coming from the same place really, they all have a common thread, and it must stem from somewhere, some truth. But it’s like trying to organise and file something that is beyond that. The message is there, but the following of dogma seems to miss the whole thing. Do I believe in God? If you mean a man in the sky, a creator, no. If you mean another interpretation, of something greater than us, and what we know, then perhaps yes. I don’t know what yet, but I feel it’s linked to consciousness, linked to energy. Linked to things we will probably never be able to understand. Just because you can’t perceive something, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist. I am God. You are God. The universe is God. The Energy that flows in everything is God. Look inside yourself, look beyond your immediate experience. Beyond the body. Everything is connected, the universe is Unity, only our senses and fragmented minds make it seem like diversity. We have all come from and will return to the same place. The Soul is immortal, only the body dies. Our minds consciousness creates our reality, and our individual consciousness is just an expression of a greater collective. All religions are just a path to reach that Oneness, that Unintuitive state, or “God”. But instead of looking outward, I feel the answer or path is inward. “The Kingdom of Heaven is Within You”.
And in this sense, I feel music can connect you closer to that state. The Sufi’s believed this also, and that essentially the universe is made of vibration, or sound, thus God is sound, thus music brings you closer to God. I also read books regarding Quantum Physics, Metaphysics, Consciousness, the Psychedelic experience and research and as the more Science explores, and discovers advances on the nature of reality, they keep finding these cross over points where there are threads and similarities in Eastern Philosophy. It’s amazing really. You have these ancient philosophies, Religions, Science, Mystical experience, Psychedelic Experiences, and they have such a common thread. The Mystical Experiences given through Psychedelics is fascinating. There is so much more for science to explore regarding Consciousness, reality, and what connects the two. I feel as a species, as a human collective we have kind of lost something, lost a connection to what is around us, to nature, to spirit and I think even faith comes into that.
I’m not down with organised religion or anything, despite how the above may read, organised religion is one of the biggest reasons for conflict and terrible acts in the world, but that’s what I kind of find ironic and frustrating about it, that at root, it comes from something good. So I wouldn’t say I’m religious, but I’m certainly no atheist.
The world is not only what we perceive it to be. And in terms of influencing my music, these themes, threads, do have influence, as I attempt to touch that deeper part of the soul that heightened state of consciousness, momentarily with sound.
Also, one of my biggest influences is that, which is around us, that we maybe take for granted. Nature, especially the sky. I’m forever looking up high at the clouds, and I have an obsession with the Sunrise and Sunset. They’re truly miracles that happen every day, and whilst many just walk by. I stand transfixed at the turning of the Earth and stars. I love being in airplanes and gazing out the window, when you are up high like that, it really brings home that you are on a planet, a living, breathing biosphere, a conscious organism, that we are all a part of, and it’s important to remember that, to take ourselves out of our ego for a while and take stock that with all the ugliness that our egos bring to the world, to remember there is infinite beauty in the worlds design. It’s truly breath taking if you want it to be. Which reminds me of a funny quip, whilst on tour with Arabrot earlier in the year I drove the Alps like 4 times in two weeks, and just spent the entire time staring out the window. I proclaimed to everyone in the van “God the Earth is so beautiful, I just want to fuck it! I want to make love to the Earth!” Kjetil, as quick as lightning said, “You better wear protection, I hear she’s filthy!” haha.
You experiment with sound a lot. What will be the next big experiment? Or what experiment you would really like to do in the future?
Alex: Silence. hah. Kind of joking but kind of not with that. Spending so much time making loud loud loud music, I’m appreciating the Power of Silence, ha.
I’m not sure what the next big experiment will be soundwise. I’d like to have an actual AHRKH record out there. I’ve enjoyed doing the tapes and such, but would love to release a vinyl. Take it a step further. I have material nearly finished for one. I’d also like to tour AHRKH more, but would like to experiment with touring. I love touring, playing music and travelling. The only drawback is on tour its usually one night after another for weeks, so you have amazing drives, often through some stunning scenery, but your destination, sometimes you actually don’t get to see much of it, other than a venue and maybe a little bit of the immediate surroundings. Sometime in the future I’d like to tour with a little more time between shows, and not necessarily just play “gigs” in “venues”, you know, have a bit of an adventure, find some creative communities and stay for a while, soak in the vibes a bit more. We’ve met loads of good amazing people and communities through Gnod, and would love to do more of that. There’s a few people I’d like to collaborate with, but some of them are super busy, which is amazing for them, and the ones that will happen will happen when they happen..! I would certainly like to do more with Wagner. In terms of Gnod, the whole thing is an experiment, and I wouldn’t like to plan, or to give anything away for that matter. I’m in no doubt that 2017 will be bringing a whole host of more Gnodness to play with….Often it’s good to just LET GO and see what happens. That actually applies to most things in Life. It’s hard to do but when you let go, or do the thing that seems the scariest option, the unknown, that’s usually where real magic happens.
GNOD. photo: Jamie Robinson
“We have just announced that we will be doing a residency at next year’s Roadburn Festival, playing a different set every night.”
When is your next gig in the UK? Would it be with GNOD?
Alex: Things will be quieting down for the winter months, but the next show will be with GNOD in Prague and in the UK Birmingham with Zoviet France. I may have a couple of Solo things sporadically but nothing confirmed. Hoping to finish recording an AHRKH album in these months.
Next year is when things will pick up again. Its GNODS 10 year anniversary so we have much coming up. New Gnod Record, a new Collaboration record with Dutch band Radar Men From the Moon, and we have just announced that we will be doing a residency at next year’s Roadburn Festival, playing a different set every night. That’s going to be great! We’re not even into 2017 and we already have at least three, maybe four Gnod albums recorded and ready… and some of them are really killer!
The new Gnod record proper is sounding great! New Line up, new tunes! We keep surprising ourselves, things keep getting weird! We did a residency in Eindhoven in the summer as part of Eindhoven Psych Lab festival, where we collaborated with Dutch band Radar Men From The Moon. It turned out to be one the best Gnod recording experiences I’ve had, and may well be the same for the other guys too. Bob DeWit, who recorded it, did an amazing job and the results are fantastic! I’m looking forward to that one hitting! I’m looking forward to them all actually! I’m looking forward to it all should I say! I’ve been very lucky to travel so much in the last few years, and I love it so much, I hope it continues! I keep surrendering to the world and it keeps giving back! Let’s see what happens next! x